the range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. and because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.
this coming friday, january 25, is robbie burns day. this made me think of one of my favourite scotsmen, the rebellious, compassionate, thoughtful, cranky rd laing, the psychiatrist who initiated the anti-psychiatrist movement. i think his politics of experience may have been the first book on psychology i ever read.
so let’s see, do these two scotsmen have something to teach us?
rd laing’s quote is very, very important. we need to always be on our toes for our blind spots, and the first thing to do is to emphatically acknowledge that we do have them. then we can go on a hunt for them. i try to do that on a regular basis. here are a few things that can alert us to possible blind spots:
- a strong urge to criticize someone. if you can’t help yourself, go ahead, but then ask yourself: do you do something similar? and where does the desire to criticize come from?
- a strong “negative” emotional reaction to something or someone. fear, anger, disgust are good tip-offs. these emotions almost always arise because there’s something we’re saying no to. if we say no to something, we don’t want to see it, so it’ll automatically be in our blind spot or at least tucked away somewhere in our emotional basement (something that can cause depression, as i pointed out in this post.)
- a strong non-reaction can be a sign of a blind spot, too. it’s one thing to notice in passing that we’re not interested in something. that’s normal. but sometimes we just emotionally blank out on something.
- being overly certain of something. if you feel you are 100% right on something, it might be that you’ve arrived there after quite a while of thought or experience. or you may be one of those people that can honestly rely on your gut feelings. however, if they say that you “doth protest too much”, if you tend to become defensive of your certainties, you might have a blind spot there.
- suspiciousness is another clue. robbie burns puts it very well: it’s a heavy armour that impedes clear thinking. i had a client once who had a very hard time keeping relationships going, even though she wanted them so much. but she always suspected people of taking advantage of her, of laughing behind her back, of disliking her. and you know what, that brings me back to rd laing. he was a firm believer of the healing powers of a good relationship between a client and a therapist. it was in this relationship, indeed, that my client slowly started softening her suspicious armour.
so let’s thank these two scotsmen for their teachings today.
why don’t we celebrate it with a bit of oatcakes and scotch! while we do this, let’s wave a hello to vancouver’s own todd wong, who’s in the picture up top, and who celebrates his own hilarious brand of robbie burns day.
(cat-and-whiskey image by leff)